Saturday, November 27, 2004

Firefighters urge
safe holiday

Honolulu firefighters hope the public will give them an early present this year: a festive and safe holiday season.

Reduce home fire hazards

The Fire Department has the following safety tips to reduce holiday fire hazards:

» Leave your Christmas tree outside until it is time to decorate it.

» Make sure the tree is properly watered, and help the tree to absorb water by cutting on inch off the bottom of the trunk.

» Keep the tree away from all flames and heat sources.

» Never use electrical lights on a metal tree. Any faulty wiring could create a deadly shock hazard.

» Check all electrical decorations for frayed or bare wires and loose connections. Also, inspect your home for cracked electrical sockets before plugging in anything.

» Be careful not to overload extension cords.

» Keep lit candles away from window sills, where curtains and blinds could close over them and catch on fire.

» Place candles away from high-traffic locations in the house where they can easily be knocked over.

» Keep candles away from items that can catch fire such as clothing, books, papers and Christmas trees.

» Keep lids within reach in case of a pan fire in the kitchen.

» Never leave food cooking unattended.

They point out that Christmas trees, electric lights and constant cooking in the kitchen can lead to a holiday disaster if precautions are not taken.

The only holiday-related fire so far was a cooking fire on Thanksgiving Day that caused some damage to a Wahiawa patio.

But fire officials said their real concern is Christmas decorations.

"When you introduce a Christmas tree into your home, you're introducing a large fire-load," said HFD spokesman Capt. Emmit Kane. "It can go up really quickly and put out a lot of heat into the room.

"Between that and people celebrating with candles and decorative lights, it could potentially be a big hazard."

Fire officials stress having a working smoke alarm in homes and having families establish an escape route from their home in case of a fire. They emphasize practicing the escape route and having two means of exit from every room.

"Also, agree on a meeting place so that family members know that everybody is out of the house," Kane said.

According to HFD statistics, there have been 2,597 fires so far this year, three of which were accidental fires that killed four people.

"Many of these fatal fires are probably avoidable with the installation of smoke detectors," Kane said. "This might be a good time to do a safety assessment of your own home."



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